Halo Vacuum Effort Shines Light On Germs

It was a Eureka moment. Pun intended, given that Ken Garcia's light-bulb moment was the notion that nobody had thought up a device combining a vacuum cleaner with the sterilizing virtues of UVC (ultraviolet light in the "C" band, also called Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation).

Garcia, the CEO of Halo Technologies, Inc., a privately held firm in Charlotte, N.C., says he had returned home from his job with a water company to his wife and triplets when he realized that the same UVC used to purify water could be used in the home to kill bacteria, dust mites and other pathogens inhabiting carpets and causing a variety of kids' allergies and asthma in the home.

Fast-forward four years or so, and the result--the firm's Halo Ultraviolet Germ-Killing Vacuum--has begun a national rollout this month in several major chains, and will get support from an ad push starting this week. The machine, which retails for $499, is available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Best Buy starting this month and at Sears starting in November.



Garcia uses the analogy of a kitchen countertop on which poultry is being prepared to describe how the device works to kill dust mites--which account, he says, for the vast majority of indoor asthma and allergies. "If a traditional vacuum is like a paper towel used to wipe the counter after preparing poultry, Halo is like including the Clorox you spray on the counter to kill organisms left behind.

The effort, via Charlotte, N.C.-based BooneOakley, includes TV, print, outdoor and interactive elements. The campaign targets women with kids under 10, and includes two full-page print ads in People, Oprah, Parenting, Real Simple, and Parents; two :30 TV spots will run in Early AM News, Daytime, and Primetime on all broadcast networks in the New York, Dallas, and Minneapolis. The company will also promote the machine on a billboard in New York's Times Square. The effort includes a Web site, GetHalo.com.

Garcia says the TV advertising is going to begin as a test-run in New York, Minneapolis and Dallas this week, although product rollout is national. He adds that although the company tested the machine for its ability to kill MRSA, the dreaded strain of staph that has evolved a resistance to most antibiotics, the company will not make that capability central to its marketing message.

In all media, the only visual is the vacuum itself and its glowing ultraviolet light. Copy emphasizes the vacuum's germ-killing features. One TV ad reads: "Just before dying, dust mites report seeing a brilliant flash of light. Ultraviolet light." One print ad asks: "Is it a vacuum cleaner that kills germs? Or a germ-killer that vacuums?" In the Times Square display, initial text reading: "Kills dust mites, mold, flu ..." is always visible while "... and other invisible germs" appears only when the vacuum's intermittent black light comes on.

David Oakley, partner in the agency, says that the two spots are focused on the UVC light. "We really wanted to emphasize the light chamber underneath." The agency also handled media.

Oakley says the company is also running an Internet banner-ad campaign on sites like About, WebMD, iVillage and Yahoo, has redesigned the company's consumer Web site, and is handling packaging and POP. He says that displays have motion sensors so that when consumers are within three feet of the machine, its UVC light comes on.

Garcia says that since launching the company, he has attracted staff from Dyson US, including Jeff Collins, formerly head of sales at Dyson and now vice president/sales and marketing at Halo. Halo's head of field sales also comes from Dyson.

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